Women Aiming for Fourth Straight Title at Rim Rock

Sept. 4, 2009

LAWRENCE, Kan. – It’s no mystery who will pace Kansas this season. Senior Lauren Bonds and junior Amanda Miller are the women’s cross county team’s unquestioned leaders.

But when Kansas kicks off the 2009 season Saturday morning by hosting the Bob Timmons Classic at Rim Rock Farm, it will be in an unusual position. Both Bonds and Miller are running unattached, leaving the rest of the squad to make sure Kansas captures its fourth straight title on its home course.

Assistant coach Michael Whittlesey’s rationale for the decision is simple. Bonds and Miller may well finish first and second for the second-consecutive year, but developing squad depth is the meet’s real focus and also the key to success later in the season when results really matter.

As Kansas slogged through its preseason workouts, Whittlesey preached the importance of running as a pack or cohesive unit. Bonds and Miller should perform well individually, but he said the team would only go as far as the rest of runners take it.

“I want to raise the expectations of the athletes from our third runner down to our eighth or ninth runner,” Whittlesey said. “They are in a position where the results of the meet are under their control and in their hands.”

The Jayhawks will be looking to their number three and four runners, sophomores Kara Windisch and Rebeka Stowe, to help lead that pack. Windisch recorded a personal best last season at Rim Rock, running the 5K course in 19:25 to finish fourth. Stowe also began her freshman campaign well, finishing 15th with a time of 20:39.

Both will be expected to bring Kansas to the front of the field early on, allowing the pack running and power in numbers the Jayhawks have embraced to pay off.

“Ideally, we will have a group of four or five running as a real tight pack up front and trying to take all the top spots,” he said.

Among the cast supporting Windisch and Stowe will be six freshman, Natalie Becker, Brenna Farren, Kyra Kilwein, Allie Marquis, Kathleen Thompson and Tessa Turcotte, attempting to help Kansas match last season’s success when it took six of the top seven spots.

“If there are girls in front of us, we are going to try to get up there and pick them off individually,” Windisch said. “The biggest thing is just sticking together and working together.”

She said she expects big things from the Jayhawks on their home course, even without Bonds and Miller leading the way.

“It’s a great way to start the season,” Windisch said. “All of us love Rim Rock’s course. It is such a nice race, and we all feel like this is a great time to show what we can do.”

The women’s 5K race begins at 9 a.m. followed by the men’s 6K race at 10 a.m.

Men look to build on early progress

One year after relying on youth to lead the way, the Kansas men are ready to build on lessons learned and begin fulfilling their potential.

Like the women, they are working on developing a solid group of runners who can work with one another to ensure success late in the season. Whittlesey said practice didn’t start they way he had hoped, but the squad had gradually bought into the pack mentality he preaches.

“Our first workout of the year they were spread apart all over the place and we really talked about the importance of running as a pack, working together and trying to find your teammate,” Whittlesey said. “Every workout we have done since then, they have impressed me by getting closer and closer to a pack.”

Senior Bret Imgrund, junior Nick Caprario and sophomore Donny Wasinger are expected to lead Kansas, but Whittlesey said the rest of the team has gradually closed in the trio as practice has gone on.

“The gap is being closed,” Whittlesey said. “If we can continue to race the way we have practiced, then we will be pretty good.”

The Kansas men are also looking to claim their fourth straight title in Kansas’ lone home event.

Alumni return home, pose challenge

Kansas took both the men and women’s team titles in last year’s competition, but not without a serious challenge on the men’s side from a talented group of former Jayhawks.

Former standouts Paul Hefferon and Colby Wissel took first and third respectively, leading the Kansas Alumni Team to within three points of last year’s squad. There are five former runners returning to Rim Rock this year to compete: Hefferon, Wissel, Brock Ternes, Tyson Willoughby and D.J. Hilding. No alumni will run in the women’s 5K.

Whittlesey said he expects the Kansas Alumni Team to have runners at the front of the pack, but a lack of depth would probably prevent it from mustering a serious challenge to the current squad for the second straight year.